I sat with a friend this week and we asked the real, normal, overrated question,
“How are you?”
And since she is my friend, and I am hers, we didn’t start with “good”, we started with silence, and an inability to formulate a full answer. As we both shared and listened to each other explain the insides of our hearts and minds, we then started to observe a sad, sad thing. I say its sad because it’s not Jesus, it’s not how Jesus treats me, or anyone I know, but it’s how I’ve been treated often, and how I’ve treated other people.
She and I discussed how, often, we’ve only been treated with compassion once we’ve shared that we’re not doing well. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for compassion, but this has often been my experience: I am confronted by someone needing something from me, and they’re not necessarily considering that I, too, am a person. They don’t understand that within my own head or heart I have wounds that I’m trying to work through, that the stress I place on myself at this stage of my life is bearing down and is unmanageable. They don’t know how little I sleep, or all the balls I’m trying to juggle. They have a need, an issue, and they come to me to solve it. Considering my private life, I crack under their weighty expectations and they are disappointed or frustrated with me, but compassion never steps in. Not until I’m in a pile of tears, or closing the door and shaking from the fear of loosing it all.
Why do we extend compassion once we hear someone’s story, but not before? Why do we look at a person and label them terrorist, religion, refugee, etc, we treat them like “all the rest”, but then once we hear that they truly are hard working, they truly did loose everything, they truly are more like me than “them”, that’s when compassion steps in?
Why doesn’t compassion come first? Why don’t we let someone in to our families, why don’t we find our similarities first, why don’t we believe the best about someone first? Instead we wait for them to prove they are worth our compassion, worth our time, worth disrupting our schedules and values and precious alone time for.
I want compassion first.
I want people to approach me knowing that I’m vulnerable, just like them. I want people to assume that I don’t have it all together, because honestly, who even does? I want people to extend compassion to me without me explaining to them how stressed out I am, how disappointed I feel, how A, B and C has happened to me all in the last 3 days and I just can’t handle it all. Ah, that, “can’t handle it all”, that’s a topic for tomorrow.
Regardless, I want compassion. First. Not once I’ve explained why I need it. Don’t let me build my case as to why you should treat me with compassion. Just do it. And I flip it around, too. This is a word for me as well. I’ve been seeing fear and hatred being tossed around like hay bales in hay season, and the only answer I’ve found is that it has to start with me. If I want it, let it start with me.
I’m going to try. Try to see the person on the street and assume they deserve and need compassion. To assume that compassion is the best option when I approach my friends, my colleagues, my fiancé, my family who live too far away.
Compassion is broad and it’s complex, but when I quiet myself before God, He always teaches me how to love with compassion.
Can I say, it’s been a rough few weeks for me, and these words come from a rawness that is not yet healed, not yet stitched back together, this is not reflections of past lessons. This is today. This is this morning. This is last night crying on Evert’s shoulder, and this morning crying in my bed. And I have every voice screaming at me telling me all sorts of lies, but I’m hitting “publish” because I want you to know: I don’t have it all together. And I’m not okay. I’m not good. But I will be.
I trust that I will be, for God is faithful, and He is carrying me.
With Strength that is not my own, Samantha